got a new girlfriend, and I’m just delirious about it. We
met over the summer, and she’s gorgeous and talented, intelligent
and caring. It’s just wonderful. I’ve never met anyone with
whom I’m so effortlessly compatible. Oh, and the sex? Well,
I’m not one to tell tales out of school, but man, oh, man
. . .
What? Oh, um, no, she lives in Niagara Falls—you wouldn’t
know her. Shut up, she is too real!
If you grew up in the Northeast, you know this routine by
rote: the defensive virgin’s summer-camp girlfriend routine.
(I can only assume that other regions have their own analogous
vacation-spot hotties: the Steamboat Springs sirens, the Myrtle
Beach Lolitas, the precocious vixens of the Baja Peninsula,
and so on.) Somewhere around the end of grade school or the
beginning of high school, the pair- partnering madness that
will likely dominate the rest of your pre-senile-dementia
days gets hold of you, and the mere possession of a relationship
is freighted with status value: A loner is a loser. And so
some of the more desperately insecure resort to the fictive
girlfriend. (As a heterosexual male, I can only speak from
that experience; this is perforce a narrow perspective. But
at the developmental stage we’re discussing many homosexual
students are scrambling to deny completely their orientation—or,
at the very least, to prevent its widespread publicity among
the group we’ll refer to as homophobic violence addicts—so
they duck out of the perceived competition to attend different
concerns. And if I remember correctly, the less-popular straight
girls either develop close relationships with their drama
teachers or take up horseback riding. But I suppose there
may well have been as many imaginary Brads as imaginary Lisas.)
This scheme turns up from time to time in popular entertainment,
too, and it’s always used to reinforce the point: In our society,
it’s better to be two than one, and making your “one” up is
supremely lame, as—if caught—it works as evidence of your
absolute inability to ever get one. But this time-honored
stigma may not obtain forever. The wholly imaginary girlfriend
is making great strides toward the mainstream.
Rumor has it that the October issue of Playboy is going
to feature Rayne, a character from the video game Bloodrayne,
in a series of softcore shots. According to a Web site dedicated
to the game, the pictorial presents Rayne “100 % topless and
smokin’ hot.” Devotees are all a-twitter in masturbatory anticipation,
which admittedly is pretty freaking weird when you consider
that Rayne is the product of not genetic but binary code.
Binary code in the shape of a wasp-waisted and stacked, PVC-
and stiletto-clad goth-chick superbabe, true—but still, dude,
it’s Ms. Pac-Man in bondage gear (a phrase I’m now frightened
So, the first thought at this news could, in all fairness,
be: ewww. But it takes only a moment’s consideration to see
that Rayne is perfectly well-suited for the pages of Playboy.
She’s no less real than the phony bombshells traditionally
depicted on those pages—with their elective surgeries and
Photoshop fine-tunings, these are casemods of the highest
order, albeit fleshy. It’s been decades since that mag featured
anything human. So, Rayne’s appearance is hardly news, and
by the way, probably will involve not many more keystrokes
By extension, any and all of your entertainment-industry crushes
are a little loony, are they not? Given the artifice of the
presentation, the Halle Berry you fantasize about (with or
without cat suit) is no more or less real than Rayne or the
Fabio-like portrait on your well-worn paperback cover of Trampled
There’s some pretty sophisticated science being used to animate,
externalize and embellish our fantasies. Maybe there’s nothing
wrong with that, though innovation can take some getting used
to. A healthy fantasy life is a good thing, and I suppose
one could argue that overreliance on these props could diminish
the imaginative capabilities of consumers; but, on the other
hand, if you’re life-partnered with something/one you whipped
up at home on your Dell, can you fairly be called “co-dependent”?
(Couples counseling in the future is going to be, if nothing
And, at any rate, the underlying dynamic of these fantastic
infatuations is ages-old: All romance and desire relies on
a certain suspension of disbelief, the disregard of the plain
evidence of your senses in assessing a love object.
Yes, hugging Rayne—in either her print or her PC incarnations—will
prove difficult and, one would assume, less than fully satisfactory.
You’d have to overlook some real downsides if dating a computer-
generated gal. But then how accurate, how objective, after
all, is the vision that you have of your real-time, real-world
squeeze? The one there on the couch picking at her toes, or
scratching his belly, or walking to the kitchen, inexplicably
dressed in a turtleneck, underpants and Tevas, to drink directly
from the carton of milk. Clearly, you’ve developed the ability
to overlook. You’ve developed a selective focus in the name
of love, which, frankly, is pretty heroic—however addled.
So, cheers, all you gamey Rayne-iacs and you fraudulent Resort
Town Romeos. I hoist a flute of non-alcoholic sparkling cider
to toast your deluded unions.
I myself am heading back to Niagara Falls at the first chance,
to the house where my imaginary girlfriend lives—my imaginary
girlfriend with her paint-spattered jeans and her thin cigarettes,
or her chalk-striped powersuit and her Blackberry, or her
tank-top and her javelin, or her burkkha and her five daily
prayers. Given the choice between romance and realism, I’ll
gleefully choose the former, even if it gets me banished to
the far, sorry side of the lunchroom.